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Diversity and inclusion charter

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Building diversity

From boardroom to building site, the construction industry is no stranger to the topic of diversity, and it’s widely recognised that steps must be taken for the sector to become more inclusive.

As the industry continues to tackle significant skills and labour shortages, it’s vital for all involved to send out a strong message that a career in construction represents a viable, attractive and entirely rewarding opportunity for people hailing from all backgrounds.

The figures speak for themselves. Today, only 13 per cent of the active construction roles are occupied by women, with just two per cent of these being site operatives. When it comes to ethnic diversity, the industry average is less than two in ten (13%), with only three per cent of construction managers in the UK representing a minority background.

The industry is acutely aware that it needs to act, not only to attract the talent of tomorrow but to help deliver projects that drive positive change within all communities. But working out how, from such a low base is not straightforward.

This makes Willmott Dixon’s and our work with the CIOB to produce a Diversity and Inclusion Charter an important step along this journey as it will clearly define the actions the industry needs to take to get moving in the right direction.

If we are going to address the skills shortage, build the infrastructure the UK needs and see the next generation fulfil their potential, everyone in the sector, clients, commissioners, consultants and contractors must work together to recruit and retain the brightest talent with diversity and inclusion at the very heart of the recruitment strategy.

Workforce reflecting the community it serves

Publicly funded construction projects enable change, giving their focus on creating buildings and infrastructure that not only serve communities once in use, but also create positive benefits during their development.

Ensuring the construction workforce represents and reflects the communities it operates in is a critical part of tackling the diversity agenda and driving positive change within society. Naturally, project delivery will be enhanced if the knowledge and understanding of the community it seeks to serve is sat around the table from the outset.

Interestingly, as part of our Social Value: More than Metrics report into the sustainable legacy projects can leave within communities, the national research conducted found that half of UK adults couldn’t readily recall how a construction project had left a legacy in their local area. This isn’t because social value isn’t being generated – far from it – as organisations such as the Social Value Portal can clearly and authoritatively evidence.

But to help people better connect with the full story of social value we need deeper, more meaningful engagement with communities – part of which can start with the design of the workforce itself.

“We need deeper, more meaningful engagement with communities – part of which can start with the design of the workforce itself.”

Jane Dackiewicz, head of HR at SCAPE

The power of frameworks

Frameworks can empower public sector clients to use their projects as catalysts for change and offer platforms for their delivery teams to showcase their progress.

For example, as part of the PQQ stage across our suite of construction, consultancy and civil engineering, framework partners must submit their diversity policy and actions plans. Within this, clear measures to promote diversity both across the workforce and during project delivery must be plainly evidenced. Through our proactive management of frameworks, actions are measured, and challenges addressed, not just over the course of individual projects but throughout the lifetime of the framework.

The reason for change is compelling

McKinsey’s 2017 report ‘Delivering through Diversity’ showed companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on their executive teams were 21% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the fourth quartile.

Diverse teams breed success. They promote higher levels of performance and make the office or site a more enjoyable and productive place for teams to thrive.

The ground-breaking charter proposes the act as a building block that will help make our industry thrive in the long term. We all need to look at our culture and ways of working to create an environment that encourages people from all parts of society.

Willmott Dixon is absolutely walking this path. It became the first construction company to publicly commit to achieving gender parity at each job grade by 2030. Under Rick Willmott’s leadership, the team has also taken bold decisions to deliver a workplace that supports diversity, such as agile working in offices and sites, without comprising on its ethos of always recruiting the best people for the role.

As we have seen over the last twelve months, the construction industry is never afraid to tackle challenges head on. Recognising the need for a more inclusive and diverse sector to drive forward real change is the first step but now we need more concrete action to be taken.